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Natalie Coughlin: Professional swimmer, amateur gorilla-watcher

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Fresh off her history-making performance in London that saw her tie Dara Torres’ and Jenny Thompson’s all-time Olympic medals total of 12 (the most for a U.S. female), Natalie Coughlin wants to keep swimming at age 30.

We caught up with Coughlin and talked about working out, her recent trip to Africa – where she proudly wore her Oakland Raiders hat in the jungle – and a whole lot more. Here’s a condensed version of our conversation:

How much swimming and training are you doing?
I’ve been lifting, running and swimming. I haven’t formally started training with the team yet, but I have been working out on my own. I’m swimming five days a week … not over 5,000 [meters a day].

When will you start competing again?
I have no idea. I’m still trying to figure out my meet schedule. But I’ll definitely be at Santa Clara [Grand Prix in early June] and World Championships Trials [in late June].

You do a lot of running. Ever think of going the Brendan Hansen route and doing triathlons?
The whole cycling thing freaks me out. Being on the road with cars … when I’m in my own car I don’t trust other drivers. If there were run-swims, I would do those.
Editor’s note: Natalie, try an aquathlon.

Did it really take you 45 hours to travel to Rwanda for your recent trip with Right to Play?
We ended up having mechanical issues in Chicago that ruined the rest of our flight. We flew from San Francisco to Chicago, then Chicago to Brussels. And originally we were supposed to fly from Brussels to Kigali [Rwanda] but because we missed that connection, and that connection only happens twice a week, we couldn’t get a flight. So we ended up having this 10-hour layover in Brussels, and then we flew Brussels to Paris, Paris to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and then Entebbe, Uganda to Rwanda.

We missed the first day of only a five-day trip. The day we landed, two hours later we had a press conference. Whenever I wasn’t speaking I was dozing off in front of all these reporters. I was at the point of absolute exhaustion.

Tell us about the gorillas you saw in Rwanda.
I will admit, there were times when I accepted that I might get completely mauled by gorillas. [laughs] A toddler gorilla kicked me and ran off. The alpha silverback came to me and brushed up against me. I was trying to look at the ground, look anywhere but in his eyes.

What else stood out during the trip?
I had my big camera and I’m taking all these photos of the kids. Everywhere we went, they were so excited to see us. They were signing and dancing and including us in all the Right to Play games. The kids … would ask me to take pictures of them so they could see their photos. It was because they don’t have mirrors; they don’t know what they look like.

If you retired tomorrow, would you be satisfied?
I don’t think I can ever be satisfied with my career, but I’m extremely proud of it. I’m proud of what I’ve done. But half the reason that I’m continuing is that I still have goals for myself. That being said, if this all gets taken away from me somehow I will continually be proud of it and I’ll be OK with moving on. I love doing this, so why not?

Right to Play is an international organization dedicated to using sport and play to empower children and youth to overcome the effects of poverty, conflict, and disease in disadvantaged communities. Read more at righttoplay.com.

Gracie Gold splits with coach Frank Carroll

KANSAS CITY, MO - JANUARY 21:  Gracie Gold prepares to compete in the Championship Ladies Free Skate during the 2017 U.S. Figure Skating Championships at the Sprint Center on January 21, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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KANSAS CITY — Gracie Gold is splitting with coach Frank Carroll.

The news comes a day after Gold finished a career-low sixth at the U.S. Championships and missed the world championships team.

Icenetwork.com confirmed the news. It’s unknown who Gold’s next coach will be, but she’s expected to move back to the Chicago area and/or Michigan.

“There will be a change,” Carroll said, according to Icenetwork.com. “But you can’t just say goodbye. It’s got to be worked out intelligently and legally when we get home.”

Gold had been coached by Carroll since 2013, after she left her Chicago-area coach, Alex Ouriashev, about six months before the Sochi Olympics.

She moved to Los Angeles to work with Carroll and, with Carroll, finished fourth at the 2014 Olympics and 2015 and 2016 World Championships.

Asked about a potential change of training location Saturday night, Gold said this:

“I don’t have any plans of that nature yet,” she said. “You guys will be the first to know.”

Gold’s struggles since topping the 2016 World Championships short program have been well-documented. She fell to fourth after the worlds free skate, detached from the sport in the summer and mulled sitting out the fall season.

She competed anyway, posted her worst results in four years and made a desperate call to Ouriashev and worked with him for two weeks after Christmas before returning to Carroll before nationals.

“I think we did a pretty good job together, and then we had one complete disaster at the end of last year (worlds), which to me wasn’t horrible, being fourth in the world and first in the short program,” Carroll said, according to Icenetwork.

Carroll was a longtime coach of Michelle Kwan and also coached Evan Lysacek to 2010 Olympic gold.

VIDEO: Ashley Wagner has emotional press conference moment

Watch Nathan Chen declare 2018 Olympic aspirations in 2010

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Nathan Chen may only be 17 years old, but he is no stranger to the spotlight at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Way back in 2010, Chen was the youngest skater at the U.S. Championships, and he won the novice title despite barely being able to see over the boards in Spokane, Wash.

Chen was then invited to perform in the exhibition gala with U.S. senior medalists who had qualified for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games.

Chen delivered, bringing the crowd to its feet skating to “Peter and the Wolf,” reportedly choosing the music because he liked the cartoon.

Then he spoke to Andrea Joyce on NBC. Joyce asked Chen what Olympics we would be seeing him in down the line.

“2018, I think,” Chen said with a bit of sheepishness.

Chen has worked ever since to bring that closer to a reality.

He earned another U.S. novice title, two U.S. junior titles and last year became the youngest man to make the U.S. Championships top three since 1973.

After hip surgery kept him out of the 2016 Worlds, Chen returned in the fall to top the free skate at the Grand Prix Final, outscoring the reigning Olympic and world champions.

VIDEO: Tara Lipinski flashes back to 1997 U.S. Champs